8: His Highness, the Knight and the Present (Part One)
“It’s that time of year again…”
Alfonso Johannes II de Savior was this kingdom’s crown prince.
He had deep crimson hair and amber color eyes as brilliant as gold. His well-defined looks and masculinity were worthy of the bearer of the royal family crest, “Moon devouring wolf.” The air of nobility that naturally exuded out of him made him even more unapproachable.
The figure standing alone by the office window was as beautiful as a painting, though it was a pity that there was no one to appreciate this picturesque scene. However, the usually confident young prince’s brow was now wafting with the air of melancholy as his brows slightly furrowed and oozed with a vague charm.
A carefree knock soon echoed, tearing apart the air of melancholy inside the office.
The appearance of a young man with bewitchingly long reddish-brown hair, enticing good looks with the outer corner of his eyes drooping, in knight uniform, which should have been full of integrity, didn’t give the slightest hint of dissonance in this picturesque scene.
“Al, I want to consult you about the Royal Order of Chivalry budget for the next year.”
“Leave it for later, Laurenz. I’m busy now.”
Alphonso cut off Laurenz’s words without even looking at him. He had rudely entered the crown prince’s office without going through the chamberlain.
Even so, the foster siblings who had known each other since birth paid no heed to that point.
“No, it’s not the time for you to be upset watching the withering garden alone. The financial affairs secretary has been clamoring around to submit it quickly this year. That old man is still holding on to the fact that last year I mentioned that the budget would be around that much if you wanted two pretty maidservants per knight. Even though I only said that jokingly.”
“Shut up! Didn’t I say to keep it for later?”
Alphonso turned around as if he had lost his patience and gave him a sharp glare.
“Besides, this is completely your fault here. It was really complicated and tasteless of you to submit that ridiculous trial balance sheet in a flawless format. It would be hard to think it’s a different document.”
“It took an incredible amount of time, didn’t it? It was just a trifling joke.”
“I’m busy, unlike you, who has a surplus of time to make two budgets.”
Saying that, Alphonso separated from the window’s side and flung back to his chair in front of his dignified office desk.
Laurenz’s expression softened when he saw what was spread out on the desk.
“Perhaps, but why are you so busy? Is it even more important than the budget compilation of the Chivalric Order?”
“Of course. Next month is Phily’s birthday. There’s not enough time.”
Multiple pamphlets advertising all sorts of merchandise, ranging from accessories popular among young girls to heirloom jewelry, were spread on the big desk.
It was obvious what he was doing, as some of the articles with enticing slogans like “A popular gift for a young woman” were circled.
Laurenz couldn’t help but laugh out at his master, who had an anguished look on his well-defined face.
“Rather than distressing about things like this, don’t you think you should at least get along with her first before calling her by her nickname and then ask what she would want on her birthday? Instead, you’re calling her by nickname behind her back.”
“S-shut up… It’s just that we don’t have the chance to call each other by nicknames, but we are close enough to do so. After all, we have been getting along since we were six years old.”
“Phily calls you His Highness, doesn’t she?”
“Phily is a well-mannered lady. She is merely refraining herself because of my high status.”
Indeed, Philia, the young lady of Duke d’la Love, was intelligent from an early age. Regardless of her gorgeousness, similar to a white rose, and lovely beautiful looks, she was a humble girl. At any rate, both parents were friends, and she was the closest to the crown prince since childhood. Still, irrespective of this, she never flaunted her position.
The point worth mentioning was that although she would soon be 18 years old, she had rarely shown herself at aristocrats’ social gatherings. Consequently, there weren’t even that many rumors about her despite her noble rank. Only a handful of people knew that the crown prince had feelings for this young lady for a long time.
And Laurenz, who was one of that handful of people, was now looking at the master he should be serving with compassion-filled eyes.
“Well, you’re free to have delusions at least.”
“Why, you! You’re getting bolder, but still, you should stop calling her Phily.”
Alphonso tapped his fingers on the desk in displeasure, looking as if he wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying, but actually, he was.
“She will be the future crown princess, so you had better stop your frivolous way of addressing her. Call her Lady Philia or young lady of Duke d’la Love.”
“I don’t have any reason to listen to you who, far from being engaged, aren’t even lovers. Besides, I have permission from the lady herself.”
Laurenz actually smiled at Alphonso, whose complexion changed immediately. Never mind talking with her, he hadn’t seen her face for who knew how many months.
“I think it was around one month ago. I went there to see the Duke d’la Love in my father’s name, and His Excellency was late in meeting me, so I had her accompany me while I was there. Man, she was really a lovely person.”
“Why didn’t I hear anything about it?!”
“Well, it was family business, so there doesn’t need to inform you about this, right?”
Laurenz was right, but he was just trying to find the right moment to say it in the absolute most effective way.
“This was the first time I had had a proper conversation with her, but Phily is pretty nice. She’s a beauty, of course, but she’s not as boisterous as other ladies. She’s calm and composed. Above all, she has big boobs. I haven’t been interested in girls the same age as me, but maybe I should.”
“Don’t be silly. I will definitely not allow you to approach Phily.”
“But you know, both Phily and I are single without either of us having a fiance. Although I am the eldest son in the Count’s family, since there’s also my little brother, there’s no problem becoming the son-in-law of the Duke’s family. What’s more, we are a great match for each other, and there aren’t any unfavorable terms for us. Unlike you.”
Alphonso clenched his fist tightly, seemingly too angry to speak.
It was just as he had said; there was nothing wrong with what Laurenz had said. In Alphonso’s case, the marriage partner must enter the groom’s family. There was no problem in Philia’s status, but as the only successor of Duke d’la Love, if she became the crown princess, the seat for the heir of Duke d’la Love would become empty, raising the problem of succession.
Not only this but there was also an issue if the Duke, who doted on his daughter so much, would take her out of the house, even if it was the royal family.
“However… a frivolous person like you isn’t a match for Phily. You will not be recognized officially either.”
“That’s something I don’t want to hear from you. You can’t even hold Philia’s hand and only take care of your sexual desires.”
He was short of words to refute him, so he didn’t have any choice but to be silent.
For some reason, whenever he came in front of the person he liked so much, his inherent arrogant attitude jumped out and dealt with her like she was one of his retainers. They had both known each other since childhood, so he felt embarrassed to treat her like a lady. There was no way he could even try to seduce her.
Because of his position as crown prince, he couldn’t play with women openly. He didn’t stand out much either because this notorious womanizer, Laurenz, was next to him, attracting their attention. Still, as a healthy young man of 18, he frequently released his inner fire.
He chose a partner who would not arouse any problems, but Laurenz came to take care of the situation when things got annoying, so he knew everything about it. He couldn’t do anything about it forcibly.
Laurenz, who was satisfied after arguing with his master, finally returned to the main topic.
“By the way, about the present.”
Laurenz took the pamphlet introducing the accessories that read “Very popular items among the young ladies of the royal capital” in his hand and flipped through it.
“The other day, I thought Phily is a bit unusual, don’t you think? She doesn’t seem to take delight in things that other young ladies normally do.”
“No, but she always wears trendy things, and her room is full of young girl things. So naturally, she likes that kind of stuff.”
Alphonso said with a surging pride as if to say he probably didn’t know that.
Laurenz didn’t pay attention to this. Instead, he looked around the pamphlets one by one and tilted his neck.
“That might be the Duke’s preference. She did say that she was troubled by the deliveries of clothes and shoes almost every day. Apparently, that’s why her room is full of girlish things.”
“What… did you say? How do you know about things I don’t?”
“Well, from conversing with Phily.”
Alphonso was stunned after receiving the shock from Laurenz’s casual reply, “We just had a good conversation.”
Maybe it was natural for him to be shocked. After only conversing with her once around a month ago, Laurenz knew something that Alphonso, who had been with her for ten years, didn’t know.
The retainer, who pushed his master to rock bottom unintentionally this time, didn’t even seem to care at all.
“I heard it from my mother. Apparently, the Duke himself sometimes gives instruction on the design. In these few years, the dress made by the Duke is trending among young ladies.”
“It’s my first time hearing this…”
“It’s surprising for me that you didn’t know. Even though the Queen should have been more informed regarding this than my mother.”
The Duke and Alphonso’s father, the King, were friends, but his mother, the Queen, and Philia’s mother were best friends. The Queen, who cared deeply about his deceased friend’s daughter, would certainly know about this.
“Her Highness The Queen hasn’t told you about this even though you make so much ruckus and trouble about the present every year around this time?”
“I can’t ask my mother for help. It’s a present to Phily from me, so it must be something I have put thoughts on.”
“Geez, you are hard-headed in a strange way… Or rather, I wonder if your thoughts go crooked when it comes to Phily.”
“You’re being so rude, Lau.”
“Yes, yes, I was rude.”
They were of the same age, but Laurenz treated it like he was dealing with a younger person.
Alphonso was the absolute master here, no matter how much talkative he was, and he was a young man overflowing with ardor normally. Still, when it came to Philia, he was similar to the youngsters of the same age, if not much more useless than them, so Laurenz dealt with him lightly at that time.
“I’m serious. It’s indispensable to gather information if you want to present something to a young lady. Even if you know her hobby, what if she already has the thing you present? That should be the most delicate pattern.”
“That’s true, but…”
“It would be better if you could probably be the lady’s maid, but the Duke’s servants are famous for their hard defense. Don’t you think it would be much better to consult the Queen?”
“It’s probably impossible to ask my mother. She has already stated that she will neither get in the way nor support me.”
“Ahh, I guess if it’s the Queen, she would have said something like ‘If you like the woman, try to win her heart yourself.'”
That was exactly what she had said.
Alphonso’s mother, the current Queen, could be summed up in one word—”pristine.” When it came to politics, the courtiers trusted her as much as the King. She was the most popular lady in the social circles, beating down the notorious gentleman noble.
Even when it came to teaching her son, she was much stricter than the King and punished him severely for “unmanliness” and “ungentlemanly” behavior.
The reason why Alphonso and Philia, where neither of them had a suitable partner, weren’t engaged was not only due to the Duke’s obstruction but because it was also Queen’s intention. If the royal family took the authority into their hands, even the Duke would have to obey. Still, they would not be engaged until Alphonso had Philia’s consent.
“It’s becoming even more arduous if trending present aren’t good either… I absolutely can’t fail this year.”
“We’re eighteen years old this year, aren’t we?”
Eighteen was the age at which one would be officially recognized as an adult.
An engagement or marriage would be invalid without parental guardianship if they were minors. However, such accords were unnecessary if they were eighteen years old. It meant one would be old enough to marry of their own free will as long as they ran to a church.
Evidently, for someone with high status, Philia couldn’t marry by ignoring her family’s circumstances. Still, now that she was an adult, marriage proposals would increase, and more men would be interested in her.
Although they were childhood friends, there was no progress between them, so it was understandable why Alphonso was in high spirits.
“If asking the Queen is pointless… That’s it!”
“What did you come up with?”
“Al, are you acquainted with Luca d’la Love?”
“Yes, he is Philia’s little brother and the child of the Duke’s second wife. I have greeted him once.”
It was not difficult to remember the young man with platinum blonde hair and an angelic face.
“I heard it from Philia. He’s been in his rebellious phase and doesn’t talk to her these days. They seemed to be getting along very well in the past.”
“And what was the purpose of bringing him up?”
“Think about it. Isn’t the little brother filled with information about his sister?”
“We haven’t talked to him at all, right? So I don’t think it would be possible to receive help from him.”
“But isn’t it a much more promising lead than brooding and worrying alone in the room?”
As Alphonso was hesitating, Laurenz smiled and flipped one of the magazines.
“At the very least, it’s guaranteed that you’ll have a better choice than your hobby.”
The page he opened was titled “For your beloved growing up girlfriend,” and numerous pictures of gorgeous and sensual underwear made of lace and chiffon were there.
A double circle had been drawn on the page.
“Would you believe it if I told you that if you were to present these things to the lady who’s not even your lover, she wouldn’t talk to you again?”
“Ugh… I will stop.”
Perhaps he was vaguely aware of this point, so Alphonso acknowledged to go and see Luca.